A Puppet’s Dream Deferred: Marty Krofft and the Colossal Failure of Atlanta

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Over Thanksgiving weekend, one-half of one of the most unique duos in entertainment history passed away. Marty Krofft, the younger brother in the puppetry and producing duo of Sid and Marty Krofft, died at age 86 on Saturday.

They started their career as puppeteers, opening for artists like Liberace and Judy Garland before creating their shows. Initially, they broke into television designing sets for shows like “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour”, All in the Family”, and others.

Sid and Marty Krofft’s bread and butter came in the form of unique children’s entertainment like “H.R. Pufnstuf,” “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters,” “Land of the Lost,” and “The Bugaloos,” shows that had short runs of usually a couple of seasons but later became staples of syndicated TV for GenX kids like me.

The Kroffts moved on to lavish variety specials and series. The duo produced a special for Raquel Welch and a short-lived show featuring the Bay City Rollers, but their biggest impact in the variety-show landscape of the ’70s was “Donny and Marie,” which the Kroffts produced for one season before the Osmond family gained creative control.

“Donny and Marie” featured an array of special guests, production numbers, and the talents of Donny and Marie Osmond.

I first met Sid and Marty Krofft when I was a toddler and visited a hotel near Atlanta.

The Kroffts opened The World of Sid and Marty Krofft, an indoor amusement park, inside the Omni International Complex in May 1976. The event was celebrated with national fanfare. The celebration included a broadcast of the “Krofft Supershow” which featured the park.

The Atlanta History Center recalls the excitement of the opening:

Atlanta was known as the U.S. capital of murder in the 1970s. Cousins and the Kroffts persisted with their decision unaware that this would result in the demise of the theme park.

Despite the high crime rate in the area, more than 3,000 dignitaries gathered to attend a pre-opening of The World of Sid & Marty Krofft on the Sunday before the grand opening.

Mayor Maynard Jackson said, “This will be the biggest opening for Atlanta since “Gone with the Wind”.

The opening day was a great success, with a large number of people attending.

I remember entering the World of Sid and Marty Krofft by way of the longest freestanding elevator in the world. I give my mother major credit for her ability to handle me in an unfamiliar setting.

The Kroffts were creative and their creativity is evident throughout the park. The indoor location also meant that metro Atlantans didn’t have to worry about sunburns and fatigue from the steep hills of Six Flags Over Georgia.

My favorite was the dark ride featuring a pinball-themed theme. Guests boarded spherical cars to experience the attraction from the perspective of the pinball. The ride was difficult to operate and too heavy.

The struggles of The World of Sid & Marty Krofft were largely defined by The Crystal Carousel. It was too ambitious and some of the attractions were too heavy for them to function properly. Other rides had mechanical issues. Sid and Marty Krofft were more interested in creating an immersive experience that included puppet shows, meet-and-greets, and costumes.

This ambitious experience was accompanied by high operating costs which led to high ticket prices. It was doomed because of the high costs of operations, wasted time, and guests’ reluctance to spend a part of their days in a city that is rife with crime.

Atlanta History Center reported that “the bank financing the park refused to provide financial support.” The park was shut down without any warning to employees or visitors. They were unable, however, to come up with a solution.

The World of Sid and Marty Krofft closed in early November. It was only six months since the hyped-up opening of the World of Sid and Marty Krofft. The network left earlier this year.

Of course, Sid and Marty Krofft would go on to more exciting things, and Atlanta would rebound. But that ambitious, flawed indoor amusement park was a brief moment of excitement for one three-year-old kid.